A mention of Key West typically conjures up images of palm trees, the awe-inspiring Overseas Highway and a tropical destination unique to the U.S. For many, it also brings to mind funky Duval Street. Running from the north end of the island to the south, Duval is home to some of the island’s most iconic bars, like Sloppy Joe’s and the Hog’s Breath Saloon.
But just a few blocks off the bustle of Duval Street and steps from the seaport, there’s a quieter, calmer Key West. On these palm-lined streets, among a multitude of historic conch mansions sits NYAH, which stands for Not Your Average Hotel. Its exterior blends in unassumingly with the surrounding homes. This unique and affordable accommodation in Key West offers a budget-friendly option in a great location close—but not too close—to all the Duval Street action.
The comfort of a hotel, the flexibility of an Airbnb
The owners of NYAH saw a need for a new hotel concept after traveling the world in groups and finding the accommodations they stayed in weren’t quite meeting their needs. The property that resulted—built out of three converted bed-and-breakfasts—pairs the comforts of a hotel with the flexibility of an Airbnb. NYAH rooms feature custom-built beds from Spain that can fold and unfold to convert into bunk beds, a couch or a single king bed. Many different types of travelers, from groups to singles and couples, have had their needs thoughtfully considered.
Set off Margaret Street in Key West’s Old Town, NYAH consists of seven traditional conch-style houses, five of which host guest rooms. Upon entering the property, guests are greeted by a small lobby and front desk, where free coffee is offered all day.
The highlight of the hotel greets guests outside the lobby through the back doors: a tranquil, tropical oasis. Lined with palm trees, lush landscaping and brick walkways, the courtyard area contains the hotel’s three pools and two hot tubs. The arrangement of the central courtyard and pools encourages guests to gather and makes for a fun pool scene, and lots of mingling between groups. Many of NYAH’s buildings also have wrap-around rooftop decks, some of which offer 360-degree views of Key West!
Not your average guest rooms
Guest rooms are located in one of five buildings that mimic the style of historic Key West homes. The hotel contains 36 rooms, with four that can connect to each other.
Inside the individual guest rooms is where NYAH sets itself apart from other, more traditional hotels. Rooms are arranged in their signature BYOR (stands for “Build Your Own Room”) style. This means that guests can customize their rooms based on how many people will be staying in them, and what kind of experience they would like. Are just two of you coming for a romantic weekend? The room can be set up with a king bed. Maybe a girls trip with four to a room? It can be arranged. The rooms feature fold-away beds that can be arranged and rearranged to suit groups up to six.
During my stay, I inspected a room that had been converted to hold a king bed. The space was used very well. The king bed was next to outlets to plug in devices. There was enough room for a couch, and the bathroom had plenty of room. The closets were shaped like lockers. I could see how nice this could be for a group of people. Each person would have a separate locker for their things with a couple of hangers and a shelf for some clothes.
NYAH isn’t short on amenities, either. In addition to the three pools and two hot tubs, the hotel offers a complimentary continental breakfast every morning, and happy hour every evening. Wi-Fi is complimentary. The front desk can arrange tours and even rent sweet bikes so you can be like the locals and pedal all around Key West.
Around NYAH: Things to do
The hotel is located just steps from Key West’s Historic Seaport and, as mentioned above, just a few blocks from bustling Duval Street. Spots around the hotel to check out include:
- Half Shell Raw Bar for their fresh catch sandwich (mahi mahi), stone crabs and oysters
- Date & Thyme for their coffee
- Willie T’s for the fun atmosphere (live music) and their blackened fish
If it’s your first time in Key West, you also might want to visit:
- The Southernmost Point in the continental U.S.
- The sign noting the ending point of Route 1
- The famous nightly Sunset Celebration at Mallory Square with local food vendors, crafts and street performers
Tip: Go to the Southermost Point early in the morning if you want a picture without tourist in it!
NYAH is definitely a place I’d come back to, especially with a group of people. In fact, I saw a group of ladies checking in for a bachelorette weekend during my stay. Whether you’re a solo traveler looking to take in the lively Duval Street, a couple looking to unwind for the weekend, or a group of bachelorettes looking to take the town by storm, NYAH is a unique, wonderful and affordable homebase in Key West.
Lastly: A note on Key West’s tourism
One popular question I’m still getting asked after my Key West trip: “How’s Key West doing since Hurricane Irma?” I drove around the entire island and I was surprised to see nothing resembling devastation. And from my discussions with the locals, Key West was spared more than the other Florida Keys were. The Middle Keys—a half-hour drive from Key West—are still rebuilding (most of these islands are residential). Cudjoe Key in the Middle Keys was mentioned several times as having been hit pretty bad. When I drove by it, I saw houses without roofs. But that shouldn’t affect a Key West trip.
An Uber driver told me that the worst damage that Key West received from the hurricane was actually via the media incorrectly representing the devastation. The majority of the damage, he echoed, was to the Middle Keys. I can only report from my point of view, of course, but I would go back to Key West right now.
For more information on Not Your Average Hotel (NYAH), check out more here: nyahotels.com. Rates range from $159/night to $249/night.
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